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NFL free agency update: Aaron Rodgers the talk of New York

The second wave of free agency is now complete and, although there are still some highly-prized players yet to commit to new teams, the overall picture is becoming clearer.

The Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals have made necessary moves at safety while the New York Jets tinkered with their receiving corps ahead of the hotly-anticipated trade for Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers' guiding hand boosts Jets

Rodgers is still not a Jet, but his input seems to have guided New York's front office in their moves to revamp the Green and White's receiving corps.

On Wednesday, the Jets brought in former Kansas City Chiefs slot receiver Mecole Hardman on a one-year deal and jettisoned their former second-round pick Elijah Moore to the Cleveland Browns.

Moore appeared to bite off more than he could chew in the Big Apple when he demanded a trade midway through last season, only to be stood down for a game and refused his wish.

The Jets, who are 13/2 to win the AFC Championship 2023/24 in the To Win Conference market, dealt with the situation in the best way possible for the team and moved him on when it suited them, gaining the Browns' second-round pick this year and giving up a third.

The additional second-rounder means they could package one up to Green Bay for Rodgers and still get in on the draft action early on day two if one of their top college targets slides down the board.

Hardman, who blazed a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL Combine, is one of the fastest receivers in the NFL and played a key role in the Chiefs offence the past four seasons.

Rodgers will be delighted by Hardman's field-stretching ability as he gets another experienced target after the earlier signing of his former Packers teammate Allen Lazard on a four-year, $44 million deal.

Harris comes in from the cold

Elsewhere in the AFC East, running back Damien Harris swapped a frigid Foxboro for the bitter cold of Buffalo, joining the Bills after four years as a New England Patriot.

The former third-round selection accumulated 2,094 rushing yards on 449 carries with 20 TDs for Bill Belichick, but arrived just too late to catch the end of the Patriots' championship dynasty.

Rhamondre Stevenson overtook him on the depth chart as injuries hit his 2022 season, but he was always a back that was trusted to get the hard yards and was consequently well-liked by the Bills' management.

In four career games against Buffalo, Harris generated 100-plus rushing yards three times and earned five total TDs, including a career-high three TDs in Week 16, 2021.

Cowboys capture veteran RB

The Bills weren't the only team to address their backfield rotation in the second wave as the Dallas Cowboys, 11/2 to win the NFC Championship 2023/24, attempted to fill an Ezekiel Elliott-sized hole with a two-time NFL Championship-winning veteran.

NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported on Tuesday that Dallas had agreed to terms on a one-year deal with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones.

Jones generated a career-high 978 yards and seven touchdowns on 192 carries in 2020 before being passed on the depth chart by Leonard Fournette in 2021.

The 25-year-old still has many miles left on the clock after playing in just six games last season for the NFL champions the Chiefs.

Dallas, who cut ties with Elliott last week, placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Tony Pollard earlier this month.

He's coming off an injury and the Cowboys felt the need to add to a backfield that currently includes Malik Davis, who went undrafted a year ago, and Rico Dowdle, who has recorded just seven carries for 24 yards in his three years with the team.

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Lions no longer lightweight in the secondary

The Detroit Lions continued their overhaul of a porous secondary by landing one of the NFL's best safeties in his prime.

CJ Gardner-Johnson comes off a stellar season in which he was the league's co-leader in interceptions while proving he can play almost anywhere for the Philadelphia Eagles with snaps recorded as a nickel, safety, cornerback or box defender.

The 25-year-old was expecting to land his first big payday this offseason but received nothing like the four-year, $64 million contract fellow safety Jessie Bates got from the Atlanta Falcons when the Eagles made their pitch to keep him.

The NFC champions prioritized the re-signing of cornerbacks Darius Slay, 150/1 to be Defensive Player of the Year, and James Bradberry, leaving little resource left to tempt Gardner-Johnson.

Their loss is Detroit's gain, for a season at least, as the safety heads to Motor City on a one-year, $8 million deal.

Former Rams postseason star joins Bengals

The Bengals lost both of their starting safeties in free agency with Vonn Bell following Bates out of the door when he signed for the Carolina Panthers, so they moved swiftly to bring in a solid veteran with a championship ring that he actually earned against them.

Nick Scott was a postseason hero for the Los Angeles Rams on their run to the big game in 2022 after stepping up from special teams duty when injuries gave him a shot.

The former Penn State captain and seventh-round pick started all four of the Rams' victorious playoff games, recording 14 tackles, a crucial late pick of Tom Brady in the Divisional Round and four passes defended.

The Bengals, who like his positional smarts and leadership, beat the Buccaneers and Denver Broncos to his signature while the Rams also wanted to keep him, but could not match Cincy's offer of a three-year, $12 million deal.

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